I am passionate about my teaching career and I love facilitating in the modern classroom. The following is a one page synopsis of my teaching philosophy which I hope gives you some insight into why I teach, how I teach, what I teach and how I learn and seek to improve.
Students often ask me why I teach and why I’m not in industry seeking greater financial rewards. In short, I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from teaching. I enjoy equipping students with the contemporary marketing tools and techniques that have proven to be successful in the commercial world. I enjoy learning from my students as much as I hope they enjoy learning from me. I also find that the personal gain from teaching stretches far beyond the confines and dates of a classroom experience. The real gift of being an instructor is the message you get from a former student reminding you that you have made a difference in their professional life, that they still make use of class materials and that they remember their experience.
I believe that successful instruction is underpinned by three core features and these relate to how I teach. The first involves a focus on experiential learning and the application of concepts in real world situations. All of my classes involve pro-bono consultancy work with local organizations facing real issues. Students come to class equipped with a great deal of creativity. Having them work with local business unlocks this with multiple positive outcomes. I find that students become keener enquirers; they work harder to solve practical problems, and walk away with a knowledge of marketing that stays with them long after class has ended. They learn not only from me, but from each other and from the client. Students sitting my classes will also write research papers which focus on the application of the theory to contemporary marketing situations. They are encouraged to engage in independent primary and secondary research which also helps them to develop additional skills necessary to succeed in their future careers. I also strive to make use of contemporary cases, such as the digital music industry or local issues such as the marketing of Kodak's new logo. My aim is to ensure every student leaves class with a portfolio of work that they can be proud of, real world experience to draw from and of course references from their clients.
A second feature of my instruction methods is an acknowledgement of the importance of social learning environments. I firmly believe that creating vibrant, supportive and most importantly fun spaces for students to learn, is important. I encourage active engagement, open and honest communication, critical and supportive feedback on performance and extensive use of technology in supporting this environment (through the use of MyCourses, streaming support lectures and communications venues that stretch beyond the classroom including instant messenger and email). I also firmly believe that learning should be fun! Students work harder and longer when they’re having fun. Fun environments create memorable experiences in the classroom, which in turn creates lasting knowledge of the concepts of class. I also find that fun environments reduce barriers to effective learning situations.
Effective feedback constitutes the third and final feature of my teaching. I strongly encourage students to provide feedback on others students’ performances. Every presentation a student makes is supported with documented feedback from others, how they’ve improved and how they might continue to improve. This represents an important tangible benefit of my classes, the ability to communicate effectively with your audience. I also strive to provide my students with comprehensive feedback, on their homeworks, their research papers and their consultancy projects and presentations. Throughout the life of my class, students will receive over four pages of written feedback, always starting with what I commend in their efforts, and how they might improve their performance or their argument. This makes a real difference to the students’ perceptions of their learning experience. If they see me working hard for them, they work hard for class and themselves. I also encourage students to discuss their feedback with me, and how they will implement improvements in future submissions (even if these are for other professors).
My approach to teaching encourages students to accept ambiguity, just as they will have to endure in the real world. I hope not just to provide them with answers, but equip them with the skills to ask the right questions and the ability to research and identify effective answers. My philosophy also comes with different views on the roles of the professor and the student. I express my belief that I am a facilitator, not an expert. Similarly I believe that students are not recipients of knowledge but contributors in the process. As such I believe this expands the generation of knowledge and enhances the learning experience for everyone. Despite being a self confessed grade chaser in my own pre-doctoral academic career I strongly encourage students to look beyond the grade. The purpose of instruction is in gaining an education, an ability to apply the concepts in the real world, not obtaining that elusive A. I realize that this is often hard for students to accept and this is why I focus my attentions on their potential when giving them personalized feedback. Identifying what students could do, rather than commenting on what they have done seems to act as an excellent motivator.
Finally, I place a great deal of emphasis on my ability to learn from my students. I seek out opportunities to understand what has worked well and why, and what might be improved and why. I seek feedback in class throughout the eleven week period, I encourage anonymous feedback where appropriate in our online community. This gives students the opportunity to reflect on others’ comments and the outcome is that I have a greater personal understanding of how class is progressing. I also place a great deal of emphasis on the reading and understanding of the qualitative formal feedback I receive from end of class evaluations. These comments, together with my own reflections that are taken from an ongoing teaching log are used to improve instruction. I also have what I believe to be an exciting research track that examines the conceptions of business student’s positive learning experiences. This has confirmed my understanding of the importance of social learning environments, comprehensive feedback systems, and the importance of real world application. I am also researching students’ perceptions of problem-based learning techniques (such as consultancy projects) with a view to better understanding the issues surrounding experiential learning processes. As a result of this I intend on improving my own methods and sharing my research with the wider academic community through peer reviewed publication. This leads me onto my last conviction. In modern academic environments increasing emphasis is placed on research and publication. I believe that my first and most important charge is to be effective with my students. Whilst my head tells me I must be a successful publisher, my heart belongs firmly in the classroom and I hope this enthusiasm comes across to my students.